Vauxhall Combo Life

Energy XL 1.2

Vauxhall Combo Life, static
Vauxhall Combo Life, dynamic
Vauxhall Combo Life, dynamic, rear
Vauxhall Combo Life, interior

IT'S funny how car classifications that were once all the rage end up being peripheral.

I'm thinking of what used to be known as the people carrier and latterly the multi-purpose vehicle or MPV.

MPVs were once touted as the ultimate family vehicle, huge cavernous creations that offered immense practicality and were generally capable of transporting seven people in a considerable degree of comfort.

For me the MPV will always be best characterised by the Renault Espace and Chrysler Grand Voyager - vehicles that were the pace-setters and inspired lots of imitators.

Back in the day there were lots of MPVs around but at some point the MPV would seem to have been usurped by the SUV during its meteoric rise.

Large SUVs also offer family-friendly versatility and transport seven people.

Crucially perhaps they also fit a fashion trend that has been nothing short of phenomenal and still shows no sign of waning.

The MPV hasn't disappeared entirely though and there are still a fair few around. In addition some more minibus-like vehicles are also labelled as such.

However the key development in the MPV sector has been the rise of more basic offerings like the Citroen Berlingo and the Vauxhall Combo Life.

Cheap and cheerful and generally based on van platforms they have much to recommend them.

Like the Berlingo, the Combo Life is available in two forms, a standard version and an XL model.

In XL form the Combo Life is a huge beast it has to be said, it certainly filled my driveway with a presence that's hard to ignore.

Interestingly the Combo Life offers either five or seven seats in both standard and XL form. The XL adds 35 centimetres to the length of the car.

As well as being long the Combo Life in XL form is also high, so the combined effect is an interior that genuinely feels more like a minibus than a car.

Passengers are blessed with an abundance of head and legroom.

Again this is down to its van underpinnings but it offers a huge amount of space and should you not be in the business of transporting up to seven people then it is equally adept at being a utilitarian load lugger.

Its practicality is enhanced by rear sliding doors, which make getting in an out a breeze, even in tight spots.

The interior generally has a spartan feel but you could argue that's to be expected in a budget MPV.

The range is fairly simple, there's a choice of the 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine fitted to this car or a 1.5-litre diesel unit in two power variants (100ps and 130ps) and two trim levels - Design and Energy.

The difference between the two trims is marked so it's worth stepping up to an Energy model if your budget allows it.

You get an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, sat-nav, digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, air conditioning, automatic lights and wipers, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist and cruise control.

One of the traditional limitations of the van-based MPVs is that they generally come with a van-like driving experience.

However the Combo Life is surprisingly refined and while its sheer bulks means it stops short of delivering what might be deemed car-like handling it offers an easy drive.

The ride quality is generally impressive too, perhaps because it shares its suspension with the Vauxhall Grandland X and Peugeot 3008.

The 1.2-litre petrol engine is also something of a revelation. While its on paper performance figures look a little lacklustre it feels surprisingly potent and punchy when on the move.

One of the advantages of the van DNA is that visibility is great all round, so manoeuvring what is essentially a large vehicle does not feel unduly laboured.

FAST FACTS

Vauxhall Combo Life Energy XL 1.2

Price: £22,310

Mechanical: 110ps, 1,199cc, 3cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 109mph

0-62mph: 12 seconds

Combined MPG: 42.4

Insurance Group: 8

C02 emissions: 125g/km

Bik rating: 29%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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